How one can redesign your web site with out dropping your Google rankings


Relaunching or redesigning a web site could make or break your Search engine optimisation efforts. 

Even a single mistake may end up in catastrophic rating drops – or, worst, income loss. 

Right here’s tips on how to deal with a web site redesign with out risking your natural site visitors, rankings and income.

Why a redesign is an inherent danger

Companies mustn’t ever take a web site change frivolously. 

Other than the Search engine optimisation ramifications, customers don’t all the time welcome a web site overhaul. (Consider Facebook’s latest redesign and most entrepreneurs’ disdain of GA4).  

Quite a few SEO horror stories revolve round disastrous web site redesigns, re-platforms and relaunches.

Coping with the aftermath is usually a nightmare for Search engine optimisation groups and the exterior Search engine optimisation guide (who typically solely will get known as to repair others’ errors).

Most web site redesign fails contain the next:

  • Noindexing the web site.
  • No redirects in place.
  • Including/eradicating content material. 


Usually, redesigned web sites are ready on a separate server the place a replica of the reside web site is examined with the brand new appear and feel. 

To keep away from creating duplicate content material points with Google, it’s a must to add the noindex meta tag to the check server (or block it in robots.txt):

<meta identify="robots" content material="noindex, nofollow" />

This tells the search engine to disregard this web site model.

But, all too typically, no person remembers to take away the noindex command earlier than relaunching the web site. 

It would take weeks, together with misplaced leads, gross sales and income, earlier than somebody notices.

So earlier than going reside, make sure that to take away that noindex meta tag.

No redirects

When shifting a web site to a brand new area or altering your URL construction, you could “inform” Google and guests the place to search out the brand new one. 

Except the enterprise has an in-house Search engine optimisation, redirection is commonly uncared for. 

Search engine bots and customers would possibly find yourself on error pages or get redirected to the homepage, leading to poor consumer expertise and missed Search engine optimisation alternatives.

Failure to redirect present assets to new ones will negatively have an effect on your rankings, site visitors and conversions. 

For one, since incoming hyperlinks to your content material find yourself nowhere, you would possibly lose that rating push on Google. 

Google handles error pages as if your site is broken and should demote it utterly.

All 4xx errors (besides 429) are handled the identical. Googlebot indicators the indexing pipeline that the content material doesn’t exist. 

How one can repair it? Use a everlasting redirect (301).

Content material elimination/addition

Designers typically work with a “lorem ipsum” placeholder textual content even when the web site has present content material.

Solely when the redesigned web site goes reside will they understand that giant components of the content material don’t work with the brand new design. And as a substitute of fixing the design, the content material would possibly get deleted.

In some instances, enterprise house owners simply need to take away previous content material for no obvious cause aside from that it’s “previous” and so they don’t need to replace it. 

As ex-Googler Kaspar Szymanski famous in his SEO horror stories example

“When content material migration is finished, Google has to recrawl new URLs, together with all of their accompanying indicators, reminiscent of backlinks and canonicals, with a purpose to rank what successfully turns into model new touchdown pages. Beneath any circumstances, a migration is greatest ready months upfront, rigorously deliberate and executed throughout a gross sales off-season.”

There are additionally cases when SEOs prune underperforming content after which go overboard. 

Your present content material may need attracted hyperlinks over time. When the content material will get deleted, that hyperlink fairness you’ve constructed up will go away. 

Furthermore, Google tends to evaluate web sites as a complete, not simply primarily based on explicit content material or pages. As soon as your web site shrinks in a single day, it’s possible you’ll lose credibility linked to your former dimension and standing.

The identical applies to the other. You’ll be able to’t simply develop from 100 to 100,000 pages in a single day with out inflicting Google bother. 

Don’t deflate or inflate your web page quantity drastically in a short while body.

How one can repair it? Deal with present content material as precious linkable property and migrate them to the brand new web site model. Use just one net tackle per content material piece or add canonical tags.

Doing it like Amazon

Given the dangers, you may go for the gradual and protected route like Amazon. The ecommerce powerhouse is understood to make incremental changes to its platform.

Some websites redesign and relaunch sometimes, whereas others seemingly need to keep the identical.

Amazon is a “prime” instance (pun supposed) of a web site getting repeatedly improved over time as a substitute of being recreated unexpectedly. 

The present Amazon web site design has been used since 2015 with out a redesign. Even the design modifications earlier than that weren’t full redesigns both.

This gradual change method has professionals and cons. 

Common Amazon customers don’t should battle to be taught a brand new interface. However the platform can also be plagued with rising litter and have creep. 

It’s possible you’ll be doing one thing proper when your income continues to develop regardless of such a nasty consumer expertise. In any other case, a redesign might be overdue.

When to revamp your web site?

Regardless of all of the dangers talked about above, there are some legitimate causes for a web site relaunch.


When your small business or web site has been acquired, you could have varied choices for coping with the “previous ” web site:

  • Some new house owners let the present web site rot.
  • Some redirect it to the brand new proprietor’s web site.
  • Others merely change the brand by including “by [new owner].” 

These critical a few web site and its viewers often redesign and relaunch, typically beneath a brand new identify. 

Change of enterprise mannequin

Startups change enterprise fashions often. At occasions, the pivot is so massive that the previous enterprise mannequin has nothing to do with the brand new one anymore.

Let’s say your startup used to supply a instrument after which turned an company providing companies. In that case, your earlier web site construction might now not make sense.

Muddle and have creep

Clutter and feature creep typically go hand in hand however can even occur independently. 

Older web sites accumulate objects, choices, content material and hyperlinks.

With a longtime design and system, eradicating objects which have grown organically is difficult.

Even long-time customers will battle with cognitive overload.

Your web site could also be ripe for a redesign when:

  • The bounce fee and exit fee develop over time.
  • It will get more durable to retain new customers, resulting in a drop in recurring guests.

Personally, I believe Amazon’s design method is hard to make use of. It’s filled with litter, characteristic creep and adverts somewhere else that aren’t even correctly disclosed.

If Amazon wasn’t a type of “too massive to fail” companies, their web site would in all probability be defunct by now.


You might also want a redesign or no less than a design replace to serve new markets (i.e., extra international locations), launch completely different merchandise, or serve new audiences. 

A redesign will not be all the time wanted in such instances. It depends upon how simply a web site may be tailored to the enlargement.

  • So as a substitute of simply serving the U.S. or UK, you need to serve a worldwide viewers or different languages? 
  • After promoting footwear, do you need to enter the style market and even promote home goods?
  • As an alternative of a distinct segment viewers of lovers, do you need to attain a mainstream viewers?

These massive modifications might require a full-fledged redesign or no less than profit from one as a substitute of compressing the brand new goals into the restricted present design.

Unsupported applied sciences

Is your web site constructed with Flash? That was by no means a good suggestion, particularly now that Adobe has discontinued and most browsers stopped supporting it. 

The identical applies to utilizing much less common obsolete technologies like Java (to not be confused with JavaScript) or frames.

In case your web site nonetheless depends closely on these, you could do one thing about them instantly. A complete redesign would be the solely viable resolution then. 

Some much less apparent legacy know-how inside your web site code might not be supported by main browsers anymore (Google’s Chrome and its derivatives primarily by now). 

I needed to repair my web site over time just a few occasions, not as a result of it was damaged, however on account of altering necessities by browser distributors and evolving applied sciences that weren’t backward suitable.

As soon as, my web site broke as a result of the most recent PHP model deprecated some built-in capabilities and interpreted others in a different way.

A legacy web site with hundreds of strains of customized code might make restoring performance after third-party know-how modifications very troublesome.

Generally a redesign from scratch could also be cheaper in the long term.

Earlier than anything, name the Search engine optimisation 

OK, so that you determined {that a} redesign is the one option to go? For goodness’ sake, name an  Search engine optimisation professional proper now! 

The sooner you contain the Search engine optimisation (workforce), the higher. 

Typically, companies begin the design with the designers, because the identify conveniently suggests. However the Search engine optimisation-compliant information architecture (IA) have to be deliberate earlier than the design. 

When you don’t have a complicated info architect in your workforce, it’s a must to ask the Search engine optimisation individual about it.

And even when your UX specialist has a stable understanding of IA, don’t depend on that. 

In fact, the consumer expertise is its personal complicated self-discipline that requires mastery, so you may’t count on the identical individual additionally to be an professional on Search engine optimisation.

Get the every day e-newsletter search entrepreneurs depend on.

How one can redesign with out hurting the Search engine optimisation

Rent an Search engine optimisation! Let them inform all involved teams. Listed below are further suggestions for an Search engine optimisation-friendly web site redesign challenge.

Agree on precise targets

To implement a correct redesign, it’s a must to agree internally on its targets.

The Search engine optimisation workforce can present a few of them, however there should be total enterprise targets as properly.

The redesign isn’t just a beauty change. It must be validated utilizing metrics that transcend vainness. Rising site visitors or engagement will not be sufficient.

How will a redesign affect conversions, gross sales and ROI?

Choose highly relevant KPIs earlier than you begin to decide whether or not your targets have been met.

For instance, as a substitute of including annoying pop-ups and overlays to your legacy design, you could possibly redesign with the first aim of getting built-in subscription varieties to develop your e-newsletter viewers. Every subscription can be a conversion, then.

Construct the brand new web site individually

Use no less than one native server to code and check. Massive web site redesigns have three of them: 

  • A growth server.
  • A check server. 
  • A reside server.

Ideally, you verify your web site redesign as a web site operating past your native community. 

Whereas at it, use the aforementioned noindex tag on the brand new web site so long as it is not formally reside but.

For small WordPress-based websites, it’s possible you’ll get tempted to work on the reside web site and introduce the brand new theme out of the blue.

Do not belief ready-made themes or the design and growth workforce to care on your Search engine optimisation, not even the fundamentals!

It might be a surprising expertise to verify your analytics quickly after. Some themes (and designs) ignore the Search engine optimisation fundamentals, or they randomly rewrite them.

So you could have optimized your good title tag construction and streamlined your headlines, after which they’re gone in a single day, and neither designers nor UX specialists seen.

The headlines might look precisely the identical, however behind the scenes, there might be a div, span or p-tag as a substitute of the H1, H2, and so on.

Your title tag might present the model first or, worse, solely lorem ipsum and be repeated far and wide, creating duplicate content material Google will robotically demote or take away from the index.

All of your arduously created meta tags, schema code, nofollow/sponsored/UGC attributes, picture alt attributes and minimized scripts could also be utterly gone. So create a guidelines of must-have Search engine optimisation options upfront.

Do not combine up design and code

Ideally, you separate code, conduct and design. Your previous web site doesn’t try this but? Introduce this separation on the brand new web site. 

You can be glad. There’ll in all probability be quite a few modifications down the street earlier than you even go reside.

Modifying the HTML code to enter design tweaks is tedious and error-prone. It is also totally impractical in the long term. Additionally, it’s prone to harm your Search engine optimisation efforts. 

Content material needs to be separate anyway, often in a database. Or when you have a small legacy web site, utilizing XML or textual content information like .txt, .csv or .inc.

Use no matter works greatest for you. Simply do not combine all the things.

Legacy web sites from the ‘90s had all of these items in a single file in lots of instances, so it was virtually unimaginable to alter with out breaking issues that weren’t even associated to the change.

But even fashionable WordPress web sites battle with mixing code, design and content material. 

Some themes require tweaks or UX textual content added to the themes themselves in order that you find yourself with English phrases like “remark,” “search” or “subsequent” in your translated web site model. 

By no means contact a operating system, particularly URLs

Geeks with many years of expertise will advise you to “by no means contact a operating system” for a cause. 

This motto additionally applies to search engine marketing. A minor change can wreck your web site’s Search engine optimisation.

Is your area already rating properly? Do you actually should rename it from x to x-y? Each area identify change is a large danger. 

You by no means know whether or not Google will settle for your new area as totally equal to the final one. 

Within the worst case, the algorithm might assume that your web site is totally new and put you into the dreaded “sandbox” for brand spanking new domains. 

Some individuals say there isn’t any such filter, however seasoned SEOs know from their expertise how lengthy it typically takes to get a brand new area off the bottom. So that you need to hold your present authority.

When registering a brand new area, please don’t put it on-line with out content material authority or whereas the previous one remains to be reachable.

In any other case, the chance of being considered as a totally separate challenge is way greater.

Having two domains for a similar challenge directly can also be a mistake. You compete towards your self. You must go “all in” on one in every of them!

At the least try not to change the URL structure. The design can change and enhance with out having to alter that normally. 

So except the IA modifications considerably, you may merely add or subtract directories and pages to or from the present construction.

Is there no various to altering your URLs as a result of the brand new construction must be completely different for some legitimate causes? 

Then redirect the previous URLs to the brand new ones by mapping each single or no less than vital web page upfront or just by altering the URL construction solely barely after which robotically redirecting each URL in .htaccess file utilizing the asterisk “*“: site/content material/article

…may very well be then redirected to… material/article

As an alternative of a “new-site” you could possibly add one thing extra significant or impartial. Internet designers typically simply added a v2 or no matter quantity utilized as a workaround. material/article

In actuality, this may very well be one thing extra particular decrease on the construction stage.

When you could have pivoted the enterprise mannequin, you could possibly hold the companies web page and add particular pages beneath it.

might be…

Lorem ipsum your self! Or remember content material design

When trying to find a brand new WordPress theme, you’ll first take a look at the design and fall in love with it, solely to appreciate that when your content material has been displayed utilizing the brand new one, it seems terrible. 

What occurred? Lack of content material design

The design has been created in a vacuum with idealized content material to suit and underscore the “magnificence” of the brand new design.

Use the precise content material from the present web site from day one or create content material that might be displayed on the brand new web site upfront. Solely then must you create the design across the content material.

When pruning content material, do a content material audit first and assess every web page. Hold the pages that rank already and have garnered some backlinks up to now.

Pages that get site visitors, be it search site visitors, referral, or direct site visitors, must also be stored for apparent causes.

Some content material could seem ineffective primarily based on the factors above, however it’s wanted to finish a web site, even when it is hardly ever visited. So do not assume that obscure content material has no worth, both.

Guarantee crawling and indexing

Why is crucial technical Search engine optimisation half on the finish? 

When you go reside together with your new web site, it’s a must to verify whether or not the Search engine optimisation greatest practices you could have taken under consideration earlier are making it into the Google index and whether or not you retain your rankings.

  • Watch your analytics and Google Search Console stories often to find potential roadblocks (suppose noindex above).
  • Double-check your robotically created sitemaps and use a web site crawler like Screaming Frog to check URLs as soon as once more on the reside server.
  • You might also need to verify the server log information. Why? Orphan pages and pages that have not been listed for some cause might not even present up elsewhere.

Generally even the Analytics code doesn’t seem on all pages, so some pages don’t have any site visitors as a result of it is invisible. 

Opinions expressed on this article are these of the visitor creator and never essentially Search Engine Land. Workers authors are listed here.

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